The Big Ticket Is Back In Town
Most memories for Minnesota Timberwolves fans start and end with Kevin Garnett.
That’s not much of a surprise when looking at Garnett, better known as KG in these parts, and his resume. In 12 seasons with Minnesota, Garnett led the Wolves to eight playoff appearances, including a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2003-04. In those playoffs (18 games), Garnett averaged 24.3 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
He was selected to 10 All-Star Games as a member of the Wolves. He was the 2003-04 NBA MVP as well as the 2002-03 All-Star Game MVP. He’s been named Player of the Week 20 times and Player of the Month nine times.During his 12 seasons with Minnesota, Garnett averaged 20.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.
Garnett still ranks as the franchise leader in nearly every major category, including games played (927), minutes (35,535), points (19,041), rebounds (10,542), assists (4,146), blocks (1,576), steals (1,282) and field goals (7,575).
“When people think of the Timberwolves, they think of Kevin Garnett,” rookie Andrew Wiggins, a player who draws comparisons to Garnett because of his raw talent, said. “That’s the first name that comes up.”
Garnett’s numbers are impressive and will no doubt get him enshrined in Springfield one day. For Timberwolves fans, though, it wasn’t just the numbers that forced them to love Garnett.
It was Garnett’s intensity. The way he slapped the ball after a rebound. His eyes during big games. The white chalk clap. The way Trent Tucker said, “Big Ticket."
Garnett’s skill-set maybe comes around once every 30 years. His intensity and passion for the game, well, that might be once every 100 years.
Why all the talk about Garnett?
In case you’ve been offline for the last 24 hours (or don’t have a Twitter account), the Timberwolves announced on Thursday evening that Wolves President of Basketball Operations and head coach Flip Saunders and Garnett will be reunited, as the Wolves sent power forward Thaddeus Young to the Brooklyn Nets for Garnett.
There’s a reason why Saunders constantly gives his younger players the same advice he gave Garnett when he first drafted in him 1995. He compares bumps that Wiggins has gone through to the bumps Garnett went through during his rookie season.
"Certain people have the abilities and they are born leaders," Saunders said of Garnett. "I believe he's going to expect of those young players to follow through... To respect the game."
Saunders, along with General Manager Kevin McHale, selected Garnett out of Farragut Career Academy back in the 1995 NBA Draft as the fifth overall pick. It was also the first draft that Glen Taylor took part of as an owner.
"It means a lot to me to have Garnett back on our team," Taylor said. “… He was the first player we drafted after I bought the team and we got to see him develop into one of the best players in the world.”
After an up-and-down rookie season (10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds per game), Garnett became the face of the franchise. “The Big Ticket” became a superstar and basketball royalty.
Unfortunately in his time with Minnesota, the Wolves weren’t able to win a championship. The closest Garnett got was in 2003-04 when the team fell in the Western Conference Finals after a 58-win season. The Wolves fell in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. This was after a historically great seven-game series against the Sacramento Kings.
The Wolves shipped off Garnett to the Boston Celtics in 2007. Garnett made it clear early on that he did not want to leave Minnesota, but it was a chance for Garnett to win his first title, which he did, with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
It’s true that Garnett isn’t what he was back in 2007 when Wolves fans last saw him at the Target Center. Garnett turns 39 on May 19 and his better days are behind him.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable for the Timberwolves.
Current Los Angeles Clippers and former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said time-after-time that Garnett is one of the best leaders that he’s been around in his career.
“He did a lot of good things that people don’t know,” Rivers said to MassLive.com in 2013. “When rookies came in, he would bring them up to my office. He’d sit them down, and then he would bring his tailor in and say, ‘If you want to be a pro, you’ve got to dress like a pro.’ And he would buy each rookie two suits, and he did it every year. To me, that says a lot about Kevin Garnett as a teammate.”
That bodes well for a team with four rookies and five two-year players. Garnett will act as a veteran leader. He’ll be able to tell players like Wiggins and Zach LaVine what he went through during his first years in the league and how to play in and appreciate the Minnesota market. He’ll be able rub off on Ricky Rubio and show him what it’s like to be a leader of a team.
“It’s whatever he says, we’re going to listen, and do it,” Rubio said. “He’s going to have the voice in the locker room and we’re going to learn a lot from him. It’s great. It’s not just because he did great things here. He’s been one of the greatest ever in this sport and I’m happy to be his teammate.”
It all seems kind of surreal right now. The player who helped build Minnesota basketball is coming back. Take a deep breath and get your No. 21 jerseys out of the closet.
KG is back.
"He came in as a kid, he'll end as an old man," Saunders joked. "... It will be enjoyable. You're in this so much where we're in the trenches. You have to be with people you enjoy and that you like to be with. That makes everything a little bit easier. We've got something we're building here."